Writing music is an immensely personal act. You’re usually taking some sort of significant story from within or about your life and spreading it out across paper. Many songwriters not only enjoy writing for others, but have found some success in doing so.
So how does the idea of co-writing really work? If songwriting for others is something that’s piqued your interest, here are some tips and tricks to get started.
1. Grab a coffee or chat it out first
Let’s face it, writing with a complete stranger can be really hard. You don’t know them personally, but you’re supposed to write something for them that might be intended to bare the deepest depths of their souls.
So, if you find yourself nervous about it, go ahead and get coffee first! Or at least sit down and chat about your days and ask some questions to get to know each other before you dive right in. That way, talking about yourselves and your stories before putting them to song will be a little less daunting.
2. Share what you’re listening to
A great way to get to know each other’s preferences and styles is to ask what you’ve been listening to, and what you’ve been working on. This is important because it helps you determine if someone likes the lyrical happenings of Adele or prefers Post Malone.
Additionally, hearing what someone is excited about that they’ve been working on can really help establish what style you should be aiming for as you write moving forward.
Create your own songwriter website in minutes to showcase your music. Design a website with Bandzoogle now.
3. Decide what/who the song is for
Whilst deciding this doesn’t have to be a steadfast rule, knowing what you’re writing for can be helpful in how you write in the room. If you’re writing for an artist vs. writing a song for pitch, the writer tends to function in a different way (more on that next!)
Or, lets say, you’re writing for sync (TV and film music). That typically means the song will have less structure and more space. Deciding this early on takes a lot of pressure off of shooting in the dark and trying to get it right each time.
4. Know your role in the room
Now, as the writer in the room, if you’re writing for an artist your job is to help them reach their vision. Would you say something different then they wrote in the lyric? But they love it as is? Great. Let them keep it as is. You’re there to collaborate with, but elevate them.
However, as a writer for pitch, you’re writing for an artist that isn’t in the room. Therefore both writers will be writing what they think is best for the song. This still means compromise, and by no means should anyone ever steamroll you or vice versa. However, your role changes depending on the purpose of the session. And knowing that role helps determine how the session goes.
5. I like that, but…
One of the most powerful tools in songwriting and collaboration in general is ‘I like that, but.’ The intention of those words is incredible because you show that you value your collaborators ideas, but also open it up to see if there’s another perspective to try.
After all, if your collaborator likes something, there’s a reason behind it. And there’s a reason you wanted to be in the room with them. So shooting down someone else’s ideas before they’re even fully formed is equivalently shooting yourself in the foot. Always hear your collaborators out, but if you’re not sure something is working, or you want to change directions, ‘I like that, but’ is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
There are plenty of other tips on how to successfully write for others, but, for now, always remember to trust yourself and your collaborators in the room. Writing with others for the first time is always going to be scary. And to this day, I have had great sessions and bad ones. But I do know practice makes progress and once you get the hang of it, you’re sure to find the things that work best for you.
Sammy Hakim is an up and coming young songwriter based in Los Angeles. In May 2018 she graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Major in songwriting and a focus in music business. These days she spends most of her time in songwriting sessions with artists all over the country.
Build a stunning band website and store in minutes
- Promote your music on your own unique website.
- Sell music & merch directly to your fans. Keep 100%.
- Grow your fan base with built-in marketing tools.
Free 30 day trial, no credit card needed.